La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose by Renoir

La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose by Renoir (1918)

My Daily Art Display for today is a painting by the French Impressionist painter Pierre- August Renoir.  He was born in Limoges, France in 1841.  He came from a working class family.  His father Léonard was a tailor and his mother Marguerite was a dressmaker.  At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a M. Levy a porcelain-painter and he worked in the local porcelain factory.  His ability to draw was soon noted and he was soon working in the department which painted designs on the finished fine china.   At the age of twenty one he began studying art in Paris where he met Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet.  He led a very frugal existence at this time and often could not afford to buy the paints he needed for his art work.  Renoir was twenty three years of age when he exhibited his first paintings at the Paris Salon.  His works were greeted with much acclaim at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874

In 1881 Renoir set off on his travels visiting Algeria, Spain and Italy.  In Italy he visited Florence and Rome and saw the works of the great Masters, such as Titian and Raphael.  In the summer of 1883 Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, with all its varied landscapes with its beeches, cliffs, bays, forests and mountains.  Whilst there, he created fifteen paintings of the island.  From there he moved back to mainland France and for a time settled down in the Montmartre district of Paris and it was whilst here that he met Suzanne Valadon who modeled for some of his paintings including The Bathers and Dance at Bougival.  Valadon also was a model for Toulouse-Lautrec before becoming a noted painter herself.

In 1890 Renoir married his lover, Aline Victorine Charigot, a model he had used in his painting Luncheon of the Boating Party and with whom he had already had a son, Pierre five years earlier.  His wife and children featured in many of his paintings as did their nursemaid Gabrielle Renard who as well as carrying out her domestic duties, often modeled for Renoir.

In 1907 due to the fact that he suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis and to try and alleviate the symptoms he moved to the Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France.  Despite his arthritis he continued to paint until his death in 1919 at the age of 78, five years after the death of his wife Aline.

My Daily Art Display today is Renoir’s painting La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose which he completed in 1918 a year before he died.  This was by far his most successful of his large scale works.  It is a tender and harmonious portrait of two women as they sit serenely, completely absorbed in the words of a book they are reading.  They seem totally oblivious to what is happening around them, even unmindful of the artist himself.  The dark haired lady on the right is thought to be the erstwhile long serving maid Gabrielle Renard who had left the family five years earlier after looking after them for nineteen years.   The woman on the left maybe Andrée Heuschling, who was introduced to Renoir by Matisse, and who later married Renoir’s son, the film maker, Jean.

Finally, I will leave you with the words Théodore Duret, the French journalist, author and art critic,  who wrote of Renoir in his book,  Histoire des peintres impressionnistes:

“Renoir excels at portraits.  Not only does he catch the external features, but through them he pinpoints the model’s character and inner self.  I doubt whether any painter has ever interpreted women in a more seductive manner.  The deft and lively touches of Renoir’s brush are charming, supple and unrestrained, making flesh transparent and tinting the cheeks and lips with a perfect living hue.  Renoir’s women are enchantresses”